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SW Washington Fishing Report

Capt. Jerry Brown
January 6, 2009
Columbia River - Freshwater Fishing Report


Cowlitz River Late Winter Steelhead

Angler activity has been picking up the last few days. Fishing has been fair at times and poor at other times. Most of the steelhead being caught are being taken in the Blue Creek area and some sea-run cutthroat are being caught near the new outlet at the hatchery. My sources inform me that late winter steelhead (B run fish) will be more productive that early winter fish due to a change this season in plants. WDFW planted our early winter steelhead as fry instead of smolt in 2006/07. This increases their mortality rate severely. The late winter steelhead were planter as 5-7" smolt so we should see an increase in fish come late January thru February.

Due to the snow and bad weather TPU did not operate the separator at Barrier dam so I have no updated salmon or steelhead numbers for you. No adult fish hauling was done this past week due to the the extreme weather conditions.

River conditions are good The river has that winter green look now with two to three feet visibility. Perfect water conditions for winter-run steelhead.

300,000 Spring Chinook

Nearly 300,000 spring chinook are projected to return to the Columbia River this spring, which would make the run the third-highest on record. If the prediction comes close, the run will come close to the awesome 2001 and 2002 springer fishing season.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will consider adopting new fishery management plans for Columbia River spring and summer chinook salmon during a public meeting scheduled here Jan. 9-10. Those plans, which include guidelines for allocating sport and commercial harvest opportunities for the popular chinook fisheries, will top the commission's agenda Jan. 10, the second day of the two-day meeting. The commission, which sets policy for WDFW, held a public hearing earlier this month on new guidelines recommended for Columbia River spring and summer chinook fisheries by a bi-state subcommittee established in conjunction with the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission. The subcommittee addressed conservation buffers as well as management objectives for both sport and commercial fisheries. But the Washington commission delayed action on those guidelines after the Oregon commission approved a plan to direct a larger share of the spring chinook harvest to commercial fisheries than recommended by the bi-state panel.

The Oregon rejection, lead by Jon Englund, split the Oregon commissioners 4-3 and seeks to take salmon fishing days away from us sport fisherman while giving extra netting days to the gillnet fleet. This isn't the first time that Oregon has forced Washington to rethink its salmon allocation. Last year Oregon forced Washington back to the bargaining table again led by Englund. Englund's bias to gillnetters is no secret. The Oregon commissioner draws most of his personal income from selling gear to the commercial industry through his self-owned Englund Marine stores, and his son sits on the board of directors of Salmon for All, the Astoria based gillnet organization. I don't take my business to Englunds Marine and suggest the same to you.

The Plan...

* A 45 day sport fishery in the lower Columbia River in March and April. (So book early as it will fill fast).

* Provide stability to the commercial fleet in off mainstem netting areas where the gillnetters can selectively target hatchery fish, such as Youngs Bay, Blind Slough, and Deep River. Most chinook entering these side-channel areas are hatchery fish and potential impacts on wild fish, threatened spring chinook are minimal.

* If hatchery run size is large enough, allow some commercial gillnetting in the mainstem of the lower Columbia River during March and April

* Provide a predictable sport fishery above Bonneville Dam allocating 25% of available impacts.

* Establish a 35% conservation buffer that will minimize the risk of exceeding federal Endangered Species Act Limits on the harvest of wild chinook. The total number of "impacts" the feds allow in both sport and commercial fisheries ranges from .05 to 2.7 percent of the total run.

Sea Lion Removal

In recent years, an increasing number of California sea lions has traveled 145 miles up the Columbia River each year to prey on thousands of threatened and endangered spring chinook salmon and steelhead. The California sea lions, part of a robust West Coast population, prey on the fish as they congregate below Bonneville Dam before moving up the dam's fish ladders.

When will it ever end?

One more time a federal judge has said no to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and yes to requests by Washington, Oregon and tribal fish managers' to carry out a federal plan and kill California sea lions-if necessary to save spring chinook and sturgeon-at Bonneville dam this year. And one more time HSUS vow to appeal. The ruling that the court upheld is the NOAA decision authorizing Washington, Oregon and Idaho to kill up to 85 sea lions each year. But don't count on it actually happening. HSUS is setting up another appeal continuing their arguments that marine animals are being improperly and illegally blamed.

This year (2008) sea lions were documented taking 3.2 percent of the spring chinook that were attempting to ascend Bonneville dam's fish ladders. State and federal officials say the unobserved toll of salmon up and down the river is much larger. There is also a growing impact on white sturgeon which is significant but has been almost impossible to gauge.

California sea lions were rarely seen at the dam before 2000. In the last 8 years as many as 100 male California sea lions have congregated below the dam each spring to build strength and girth for the summertime breeding season off the coast of California.

This needs to be handled ASAP. We all remember "Herschal" and his buddies at the Ballard Locks!!!

New Sturgeon Guidelines

Since January 1st, 2009 sturgeon need to be measured from the tip of the nose to the fork in the tail. The new way of measuring sturgeon is the method used by fish biologists and scientists and is considered more precise. The new slot limits are simple conversions of the old method. The new technique does not mean that anglers will be allowed to keep smaller or larger fish than before, only the method of measuring "keepers" has changed.

In the estuary sturgeon fishery, we are allowed a quota of 15,500 white sturgeon for 2009. We will be fishing this area starting June 1st, 2009 thru June 28th, 2009 pending an early closure. The bag limit for white sturgeon remains the same, 1 fish per day and a maximumof 5 fish per year. Green sturgeon must be released.

Smelt Season Set

We are facing another bleak smelt season on the Cowlitz river. Smelt dipping will be allowed on Saturdays only from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Jan. 1-March 31st. Restricted commercial smelt fisheries were also set for the Columbia and Cowlitz rivers and eight mainstem commercial white sturgeon openers of 18-24 hours each were set to occur in January and February.


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We specialize in guided sportfishing trips in the Pacific Northwest for Salmon, Steelhead and Sturgeon along the Columbia river and its tributaries. Give us a shot at filling your fishing dreams.

Contact Info:

Columbia River Fishing
3930 A ST SE #305
BOX 95
Auburn, WA 98002
Phone: 206-920-2428
Alt. Phone: 253-887-8529
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